Saturday, September 01, 2007

Operation Condor

J. Patrice McSherry, “Death Squads as Parallel Forces: Uruguay, Operation Condor, and the United States.” Journal of Third World Studies 24, 1 (Spring 2007): 13-52.

The article doesn’t have a formal abstract, but the general argument can be summed up from a paragraph early on in the article:

The article argues that the death squads that emerged in Uruguay and elsewhere in Latin America in this era were parallel forces created and used by states as counterinsurgency tools. They resulted from a strategic and calculated choice by state elites seeking to neutralize social sectors that were demanding a fairer distribution of economic resources and political power. The death squads were instruments used to command and confrol civilian populations through the use of terror, and were part and parcel of unconventional warfare strategies and national security doctrine condoned by elite groups as well as Washington. Most importantly, the system of state terror was international, sustained by arms, technology, finances, and other forms of support from Washington and the collusion of Latin American military regimes, united in the inter-American military system as well as the covert Operation Condor. Inspired by a national security doctrine that legitimized harsh and illegal methods against "internal enemies," U.S-backed counterinsurgents built a parallel apparatus, a set of invisible structures and forces of the state, in order to eliminate political opposition while ensuring deniability. The case of Uruguay reveals the tight interconnections among U.S. military and police training programs, inter-American counterinsurgency strategies, right-wing death squads, and the Condor system of cross-border political repression. Theoretically, the case of Uruguay sheds light on why, and when, states form death squads.

This article builds on the framework she used in her book, which I reviewed here (and a formal review will be coming out at some point in Journal of Latin American Studies) but focuses specifically on the Uruguayan case. Uruguay often receives less attention, but its dictatorship was exceptionally brutal. The Uruguayan case is notable as well for the fact that construction of the parallel state began even before the 1973 coup.

Obviously, there there are tons of books and articles on the general topic of Cold War dictatorships in Latin America. For me, the key insight here is to view U.S. policy, Latin American dictatorships, and Operation Condor all as elements of a parallel state, linked to the government but operating according to its own rules. It’s not simply a matter of disparate organizations influencing each other, but rather all fit together organically. They come together when threats from below are perceived to be strong (and getting ever stronger) which also justifies the tactics used by parallel forces.


Anonymous,  10:57 AM  

Mr Greg

I have found your blog searching some information about Patrice McSherry’ s book. I'm italian (writing from Italy) and I’m interested in the story of italian terrorism and mafia, although this has nothing to do with my job.

I came across “Condor Operation” reading about P2 lodge. P2 was a masonic lodge led by Licio Gelli; it was made up military, politicians and civilians; the discovery of the lodge in 1981 brought down the italian government. Since then, several books and articles has been written about Gelli and the lodge (though I don't remember some television programme about that).

Trying to summarize, I could say that it’s reasonable to consider P2 a sort of “State within the State”, “parallel State” or “invisible government”. Besides, it’s reasonable to consider P2 linked to CIA and Nato. Even though P2 was officially liquidated, lot of people suspect that something similar still exists.

Let’s have a look on this:

As you can see there is a chapter entitled “Connections to Argentina’s military junta”. I suspect some connection even with Pinochet, and Stroessner.

Regarding Pinochet, there is a man that worked for him and suspected (never proved) to be a friend of Gelli. It was Stefano Delle Chiaie.

Thanks in advance for any comment you wish to post on this topic.

Andrea Giova

Greg Weeks 11:09 AM  

Thanks for the comment--I am going out of town so will respond to your comment next week.

Greg Weeks 4:00 PM  

Andrea--you should definitely read Patrice McSherry's book, which discusses the Italian connection, including Stefano Delle Chiaie, who tried to kill Bernardo Leighton in Rome. He was also connected to Michael Townley, who of course was involved in the Condor murders in Washington DC. Really nasty people.

In short, Italy played a surprisingly high profile role in Operation Condor, which really deserves more attention.

Anonymous,  7:55 AM  

Thanks for your replay.

It's sad that the book was not edited in Italy. I'll order in the future.

This is a very interesting topic. If I have some new ideas, I'll let you know.

best regards


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